Showing Up is Not Enough

You might remember the time when you were younger (or maybe not so young!) and you failed at something. Or perhaps you didn’t get into the school you had your heart set on. Maybe you didn’t get the job you thought you were the perfect fit for.

What kind of role did your parents play? Did they try to protect you from disappointment? Tell you that you should try for another opportunities?  Give you a hug and a pep talk? Make a call or two on your behalf?

You may have heard of ‘helicopter parents (who hover) or lawnmower parents (who clear the path of obstacles): well intentioned, they work to insure their child has success and joy. What they may create however are fragile ‘teacup’ people who have never been given anything except praise and applause. When faced with the reality of the workplace, these folks expect the adoration and delight to continue. When they don’t get the raise or the promotion for working for 6 months straight, they are genuinely surprised

When people are sheltered from improvement feedback or failure, they develop an unearned confidence. Look closer beneath the surface however and you may see that the confidence is fragile. If you think I am talking about the Millenial generation, you might be right – although it’s not only people in their 20’s and early 30’s who behave this way. Many Millennials actually know they need to be developed. They just expect it now and often.

High self-confidence and self-esteem can prevent people from improving: if you are not aware of what needs improving, how can you get better?

What They May Think:

  • Showing up is worthy of applause. That is why so many younger folks think that they should get a promotion for ‘time served’ regardless of achievements or work habits.
  • They are unique. If Amazon can customize their shopping preferences and Pandora will play music they like, why wouldn’t the workplace see them as exceptional and special too?
  • Feedback is ongoing and often. They have lived lives with almost instantaneous input. Parents, teachers and friends monitor them 24/7. Text and get an immediate reply. Put something on social media or post a photo on Instagram and watch the ‘Likes’ and comments appear. Why would work be different?
  • Change is normal. If studies are any indication, expect technological changes every 7 years. Everything seems temporary and little is permanent so no one is thinking of a job or a mortgage for 30 years! Jobs are stepping stones to other jobs and employment comes with options and choices.

So now what?

Things don’t change backwards so in spite of wishful thinking, customization, ongoing feedback, and frequent change are all here to stay.

However, the mindset that simply showing up is sufficient will need to shift because performance matters. It should — and always should.

These confident folks are optimistic and truly care about the world we live in. Managers can have a hand in changing how unearned confidence can go from apathy about performance to investment.

Managers who can clearly articulate the standards of performance and focus on results rather than applauding the arrival at work will get more of what they focus on.

When people are praised for what they have accomplished, they’ll have genuine self-esteem.

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